I’M 53 TODAY, and youngest daughter Ruth is 23. We’ve both had a lovely day. Ruth has been fitted for a bridesmaid’s dress for her sister’s September wedding. I’ve been fairly sedentary, not to say idle, and have once again marvelled in the past couple of days at the generosity and kindness that family and friends show to me, in countless ways, day by day.
Birthday boy has been spoiled way beyond deserving – with birthday cakes and strawberry meringue, artwork and greetings cards, books, the entire Harry Potter film collection (ignorance can no longer be tolerated or excused), marmalade, song – and the promise of more books (I absolutely love having a wallet supplied with book tokens!) and letters and love. Thank you so much to all the dear spoilers - and amongst these my parents who’ve given me a really rather superb laptop desk (in the sense of a desk that perches comfortably on one’s lap) for my laptop! Now I can type, as befits my advanced age, from the comfort of an armchair!
Enough birthday revelling for now, save to say that amongst the valued gifts today is Michael Mitton’s A Heart to Listen. Our lovely pastoral team co-ordinator shares my strong sense of a need for a deeper stillness, quietness and listening in an often too noisy church and world – and has just delighted in this book herself. Here’s the back cover bumph …
Listening has become a lost art in a world that is growing ever noisier, more superficial and more stressed. Too many of us have forgotten not only about listening to others but also about listening to God, to our own hearts, to our wider communities – and even to our planet. Without listening, how can we hope to gain wisdom, to build deep and truly caring relationships with all kinds of people, to share our faith?
I’ve been delighted, late evening, to read the Bishop of Bradford’s quiet take on the General Synod meeting currently gathered in York. It seems that there’s actually a lot more listening going on (and absence of conflict) than many a newsbyte or agitator suggests. Have a look at Nick Baines’ Squeezing the Pips and be heartened.
Listening is not something one can shout about, of course. And stillness is not achieved by way of loud instruction. Rather, both stillness and listening quietness are brought about by practice. And a stressed world learns about the peace that passes understanding when it keeps company with those who patently walk in the paths of peace. I intend that my own Growth Action Planning in the coming year will be guided by the 23rd Psalm
The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want;
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; He leadeth me
The quiet waters by.
My soul He doth restore again;
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E’en for His own name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale,
Yet will I fear no ill;
For Thou art with me; and Thy rod
And staff me comfort still.
My table Thou hast furnishèd
In presence of my foes;
My head Thou dost with oil anoint,
And my cup overflows.
Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me;
And in God’s house forever more
My dwelling place shall be.